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11.4 Chapter Summary and Case

Chapter Summary

  • Union membership in the United States has been slowly declining. Today, union membership consists of about 11.9 percent of the workforce, while in 1983 it consisted of 20 percent of the workforce.
  • The reasons for decline are varied, depending on who you ask. Some say the moving of jobs overseas is the reason for the decline, while others say unions’ hard-line tactics put them out of favor.
  • The United States began its first labor movement in the 1800s. This was a result of low wages, no vacation time, safety issues, and other issues.
  • Many labor organizations have disappeared, but the American Federation of Labor (AFL) still exists today, although it merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and is now known as the AFL-CIO. It is the largest labor union and represents local labor unions in a variety of industries.
  • The United States has a low number of union members compared with other countries. Much of Europe, for example, has over 30 percent of their workforce in labor unions, while in some countries as much as 50 percent of the workforce are members of a labor union.
  • Legislation has been created over time to support both labor unions and the companies who have labor unions. The Wagner Act was created to protect employees from retaliation should they join a union. The Taft-Hartley Act was developed to protect companies from unfair labor practices by unions.
  • The National Labor Relations Board is the overseeing body for labor unions, and it handles disputes between companies as well as facilitates the process of certifying new labor unions. Its job is to enforce the Wagner and Taft-Hartley acts.
  • The Landrum Griffin Act was created in 1959 to combat corruption in labor unions during this time period.
  • To form a union, the organizer must have signatures from 30 percent of the employees. If this occurs, the National Labor Relations Board will facilitate a card check to determine whether more than 50 percent of the workforce at that company is in agreement with union representation. If the company does not accept this, then the NLRB holds secret elections to determine if the employees will be unionized.
  • A union has two goals: to add new members and to collect dues. The checkoff provision of a contract compels the organization to take union dues out of the paycheck of union members.
  • In a union shop, people must join the union within a specified time period of joining the organization. This is illegal in right-to-work states.
  • Made illegal by the Taft-Hartley Act, a closed shop allows only union members to apply and be hired for a job.
  • Collective bargaining is the process of negotiating the contact with union representatives. Collective bargaining, to be legal, must always be done in good faith.
  • There are three categories of collective bargaining issues. Mandatory issues might include pay and benefits. Permissive bargaining items may include things such as drug testing or the required equipment the organization must supply to employees. Illegal issues are those things that cannot be discussed, which can include issues that could be considered discriminatory.
  • The collective bargaining process can take time. Both parties prepare for the process by gathering information and reviewing the old contract. They then set timelines for the bargaining and reveal their wants and negotiate those wants. A bargaining impasse occurs when members cannot come to an agreement.
  • When a bargaining impasse occurs, a strike or lockout of workers can occur. These are both strategies that can be used to encourage the other side to agree to collective bargaining terms.
  • The grievance process is a formal process that addresses any complaints about contract violations.
  • The grievance process varies from contract to contract. It is an important part of the contract that ensures a fair process for both union members and management.
  • The grievance process can consist of any number of steps. First, the complaint is discussed with the manager, employee, and union representative. If no solution occurs, the grievance is put into writing by the union. Management then expresses its decision in writing to the union. If the union decides to escalate the grievance, the grievance may be brought to the national union for a decision. At this point, an arbitrator may be brought in, suitable to both parties, to make the final binding decision.
  • There are four main types of grievances. First, the individual grievance is filed when one member of the union feels mistreated. A group grievance occurs when several members of the union feel they have been mistreated and file a grievance as a group. A principle grievance may be filed on behalf of the union and is usually based on a larger issue, such as a policy or contract issue. A union or policy grievance may be filed if the employee does not wish to file the grievance individually.
  • Grievances should not be taken personally and should be considered a fair way in which to solve problems that can come up between the union and management.

Chapter Case

To File or Not?

You work in a large logistics company that is also unionized. Because of the union, your organization has very set pay levels and specific rules for promotion. Recently, your organization has received many big orders and as a result, your manager promoted a fellow employee who did not meet the criteria outlined by the union. You felt you would have been good for the job and are disappointed that you were not selected. You are deciding whether or not to file a grievance.

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of filing a grievance in this situation?
  2. What type of grievance would this be?
  3. Explain the process you might go through in order to file a grievance.
  4. Would you file a grievance or not? Explain your answer.